The Tokyo Train Ride dress

I’m so excited that Autumn is almost here. It’s the season with the best colours and fabrics – burnt orange corduroy, rich purple wools, green coatings. Sandals are swapped for boots and the cosy jumpers and cardigans come out to play. If I was a season, I would be autumn. It’s all my favourite colours and I just can’t get enough of seeing the leaves turn on the trees. My sewing is now moving away from warmer weather items and charging at full speed towards autumnal cozyness. The boots I’m wearing in these pictures are my ‘autumn boots’ and now they’ve been worn, I consider summer to be officially over.

This cotton lawn fabric that you see here (made by Cotton and Steel, part of the Tokyo Train Ride collection) is rarer than hen’s teeth. Especially in this colourway. The print run of it was several years ago now, and I’ve seen it kicking about in pink, blue, and also a beige colour – but let’s face it, the teal is the best. The quilting cotton weight is slightly easier to find than the lawn, but this print really comes alive on the lightweight fabric. You’ve just got to find it.

I’ve been to Tokyo a couple of times, and totally love the city. If I had the opportunity to go and live there I absolutely would (so long as the furkids could come with me too. And the husband, I suppose). It seems fitting then that I would be drawn to the fabric that’s called ‘Tokyo train ride’ – it’s funny how names can draw us in, isn’t it? I do wonder why it’s called that though… I don’t recall seeing many octopi out the windows of the trains. I didn’t even get to see Mount Fuji because it was too cloudy. There is such a mash of old and new architecture in the city, one minute you’re looking at modern skyscrapers and then around the next corner is this beauty. Ah, take me back.

I half-heartedly searched for this fabric now and then on eBay, Etsy and weird foreign websites that I had to use Google Translate for. I turned up nothing for a very long time. Then one day, the fabric odds were in my favour – an eBay search returned one result.  A 2.5 metre piece of the cotton lawn was being destashed, at a not-too-unreasonable price. Several days remained on the auction, so I placed the first bid and began to mentally warn off other potential bidders. I waited. And watched. And waited some more. And then I got the email to say that I’d won the auction.

The fabric was just as beautiful in real life as I thought it would be. I had already planned to make a shirt dress with it, and as I had this pattern kicking around (and ready traced) I decided that I may as well go for this one. I’ve seen several people make shirt dresses with this same fabric – there seems to be something about this print that just screams ‘shirt dress’!

Pauline Alice Cami Dress in Alexander Henry Peacock Fulham Road Lake Hollywood Cotton LawnPauline Alice Cami Dress in Alexander Henry Peacock Fulham Road Lake Hollywood Cotton Lawn

If you haven’t come across this pattern before, the Cami Dress is a gathered waist shirt dress with a functioning placket that stops at the waist, and an invisible side zip. I added a little bit of length to the skirt of mine as it’s just a *smidge* too short for my liking as it is. (I’ll apologise now for my ironing standards – yes, they are rubbish and I think there’s more creases post-ironing than there was pre-ironing. Just look at the pretty octopus legs instead.)

There was an issue with the first cami dress I made that seems to have repeated itself in this second one – the collar, when fastened at the top button, almost chokes me. It’s so tight at the front yet there is loads of room at the back – it’s almost like the neck hole sits too far towards the back and needs to be shunted forward. I’m pretty sure that I have a correctly placed neck on my shoulders, as I haven’t experienced this with any other shirt collars. So I’m not sure what gives. Now that it’s happened twice it’s kind of put me off making another dress from this pattern – I *could* lower the front neck opening and raise the back, but I’ve never had to make this adjustment with any other shirt collar so it kind of makes me go ‘meh’ and want to move on to another pattern instead. I wasn’t sure whether the first time was due to sloppy cutting on my part, but as it’s happened again I’m now assuming it is the pattern and my cutting skills are in fact on point.

On both versions of my Cami Dress I have taken in the side seams to get a closer fit at the waist, but I feel like maybe I should have given myself a little more room at the bust because I can NEVER get a shirt that doesn’t give me button strain at the boobs! WHYYY? I don’t want a shirt hanging off me like a sack just so that the buttons sit right. Perhaps this is something I’ll add to my 2018 sewing resolutions – figure out what I need to do to have a shirt that fits well in all the right places. I’m thinking a full bust adjustment might be in order… guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and figure out how to do them. Or exclusively wear loose-fitting clothing from now on.

Those of you with keen eyes will have spotted that my dress is sleeveless, and the pattern is not. I did actually cut the sleeves out (of my precious, PRECIOUS fabric no less) and attached one, and then promptly removed it because it was SO SMALL. I mean, it was like they were meant for arms that are the circumference of my wrist. Instead I decided that sleeveless was the way to go if I wanted to actually move my arms so I finished the armholes with 1/2″ bias tape. As the shape of the armhole opening was intended to attach sleeves to, I altered the curve ever so slightly before stitching my bias tape by trimming some of the fabric away. The sleeves would have been sewn at 5/8″ and I attached my bias tape with 1/4″ seam, so I needed to remove some anyway to get back to the same seamline.

This dress was intended to be a summer dress, but I dithered for so long on finding a watery location to photograph it that we’ve now slipped into autumn. Choices are few when you’re in a city like London and the main body of water you can think of is the manky, not-photogenic-at-all River Thames. And even if you can find a photogenic spot you can bet all the tourists with their selfie sticks have found it too so you need to go at 4am just to get a clear shot. No Thank You. I eventually chose my place in East London, a path I used to walk along at lunchtimes when I worked in the area. It’s kind of residential so the tourists don’t know about it… but the lunchtime joggers do. Now that I see the dress styled as sort of autumn-y, I feel like this has been it’s destiny all along – it goes well with my brown boots, and the teal green colour of the dress could definitely be classed as an autumnal shade. I’m now picturing it with a cozy, slouchy rich brown cardigan to keep the chill off as I go crunching through the autumn leaves.

My mission for the perfect shirt dress continues on. Although this Pauline Alice one ticks most of my boxes, there are a few things that it is still lacking:

  1. I want a shirt dress that I can attach both long AND short sleeves to, so I can get a good fit through the body and then adapt it for the changing seasons. The Pauline Alice cami comes with the option of short or elbow-length sleeves (and the point in those is what exactly? If it’s cold enough for sleeves, I want long sleeves), but when I’ve tried to attach the short sleeves they are so tight I can’t even move my arms so I’m clearly not going to even bother trying the longer sleeves. It’s really weird because my arms aren’t THAT big, I mean yeah who doesn’t have a little bit of bingo wings going on but these sleeves were tight. PROPER tight. Straining-at-the-seams-which-will-pop-if-you-raise-your-arm tight.
  2. I’d like a dress with a defined waistband, like the Penny by Colette. I’m really loving this pattern and have the perfect fabric that I want to make it from, but it seems that not many places in the UK have the printed pattern in stock yet, so I’ll just wait a while. It’s not like my sewing queue isn’t long enough anyway…
  3. I’d like to try a shirt dress with a different style of skirt, without the bulk of gathers at the waist. Perhaps a circle skirt? Or even a pencil skirt, to give a really fitted look – but then I’m wondering if there’s any point in having a matchy-matchy pencil-bottomed shirt dress when I could get more wear out of coordinating separates 🤔 I’ll ponder this one a little bit longer I think.

Despite the collar issues going on here, Pauline Alice do produce some really cool patterns and it hasn’t put me off trying other designs by them. The Rosari skirt is currently in my queue and I keep drooling over the military vibes of the Quart coat – but I’m not sure I’m feeling those pleated panels on the side. They might have to go.

If you have any recommendations for a long-sleeved shirt dress pattern, please let me know! And if you’ve made the Penny by Colette or this Cami Dress by Pauline Alice, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with it!

Coming up next week on the Wanderstitch blog… a fresh and funky shirt for the hubs from some awesome viscose I scored off eBay  😍 Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!


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  1. Celia
    September 24, 2017 / 8:38 am

    Love your dress, the fabric is beautiful! Also love the ‘quart’ coat pattern, although maybe without the pleated inset!

    • Sarah
      September 24, 2017 / 9:34 pm

      Thank you Celia πŸ™‚ Yes I think I would remove those pleated sections… it’s just a little too ‘fussy’ for me. I’d love to do it in a khaki with shiny brass buttons!

  2. September 24, 2017 / 11:44 am

    Cute fabric- for the quart, keep the pleats, in a contrast [colour or texture] with shine they’d be AMAZING [eg wool coat with sateen insert]. You DO definitely need an FBA, as you like such a close fit in your clothes. You should also set the buttonhole position according to your boobs, not the pattern markings [don’t know if you already do that?] Make the buttonholes closer together, or put press studs between some of the buttons to spread the load.
    As regards styles, well look at the big four- no idea why the younger generation are so obsessed with these indie designers, with tiny catalogues that are almost all rip-offs of vintage patterns anyway! Style Arc are also amazing, and very up to date. In the meantime, Simplicity 8014 makes up very nicely, and with 4 darts in the front bodice, makes for a good fit [But do that FBA missy!]

    • Sarah
      September 24, 2017 / 9:38 pm

      Hmm, sateen might actually be enough to sway me on the pleats. MAYBE.
      Ok – it’s my promise to you that I will start with the FBAs. I will learn. And I will use πŸ™‚ Have just finished a shirt that I had to put a couple of press studs in as well as the buttons, so on the shirt I’m currently working on I am just going to double the buttons as I swear there’s about three inches between each button! I need to get one of those accordion button spacer thingys.
      I’ve checked out most of the big 4 patterns but nothing caught my eye… now Style Arc, there’s a new one for me. I’m going to go have a gander at what they have now! Thanks for the heads up!

  3. September 24, 2017 / 1:19 pm

    What about McCall’s 6696? So loved by so many and has sleeveless, short and long sleeve options plus 2 skirt shapes AND different bodices for different bust cup sizes (a/b, c and d). Hard to know from your pics but I find a chokey neckline on me means I need to do a forward shoulder adjustment which is ridiculously easy and what most of us that work in front of computers need in many garments. Have a look where your shoulder seam is, and if it’s fallen backwards off the point of your shoulder there’s a good chance you need that adjustment which brings the neckline forward as a consequence.

    • Sarah
      September 24, 2017 / 9:44 pm

      Thanks Sarah for the wonderful advice! I will check out where the shoulder seam is and maybe that’s what it needs. The joys of having a desk job hey! Thanks for bringing McCalls 6696 to my attention – I had seen this previously and dismissed it because of the gathered back, but it does have a waistband and the cup pieces would be a great help! I could transplant these pieces onto parts from other patterns to create exactly what I’m after πŸ™‚

      • September 24, 2017 / 11:09 pm

        I gave the gathered back side eye too, but I know many seamstresses have removed a lot of the gathering, it would be very easy to do and/or convert part to a pleat if you couldn’t sub in a different back! Good luck!

        • Sarah
          September 25, 2017 / 6:04 pm

          Yes I think I will try swapping in a different back – I’m sure I could find one, or just remove the gathers πŸ™‚ Thanks for your tips, much appreciated!

  4. September 25, 2017 / 9:24 am

    I can echo a lot of your sentiments here regarding shirtdresses. I’ve just sewn the MN Matilda and I’ve got to say I love the skirt on that one – there are no pleats or gathers – and it’s a great shape. The bodice is pretty similar to the Colette one. The princess seams give you a lot more scope for altering to fit the curve across your chest too. The cointerside to strain though is excess fabric there – it’s a tough balance isn’t it!! There is a hack for sleeves out there too for it. Anyway, I digress – I love your dress! Xx

    • Sarah
      September 25, 2017 / 6:07 pm

      Thank you lovely #seamstressSarah! πŸ˜‰ Ah, I haven’t looked at the Matilda (at least I don’t *think*) I have – I’ll check this one out! The pleats/gathers don’t really do much for a rounded belly so I’m looking to try other styles… or buy ‘control tights’ lol. I made the Bleuet which has princess seams, and the only thing that put me off it was that if you’ve got a crazy pattern going on it breaks it up a little bit! Saying that, the Bleuet was a really good fit so perhaps that is indeed the way to go. I feel like even if I move a seam 1mm I can go from boob-strain to sack… grr! I will defo check this one out, thank you xx

  5. September 25, 2017 / 9:42 am

    Love that fabric, and great combo – I agree on the FBA – the dress looks great but if you find you have some fitting issues while you are wearing it the FBA could sort that – I think its what is affecting the collar fit – but only you will know! If you do a muslin one from this pattern for both bodice and sleeve you will end up with a bodice block you can use for reference for everything. I dont really like to dispense advice but having some personal blocks are ever-so handy – personally I have narrow shoulders so I like a tighter fit and wear my sleeve head even higher than it should be (technically) as I like it that way….its what I like about home sewing, I get to choose!

    • Sarah
      September 25, 2017 / 6:12 pm

      Thank you for your advice! It’s really great to get other people’s points of view. I think I definitely need to learn FBAs, from what I’ve seen they aren’t too difficult and I trace my patterns anyway so making a few adjustments to the bodice shouldn’t take too much longer. I’ve heard that a lot of people have their own bodice blocks – sound advice to create my own I think. I often find that the bodice size that fits my waist, gapes under the arms for some unknown reason too. Where should I start? Is there a good book/website you could recommend that I look at? Thanks again for your help, much appreciated πŸ™‚

  6. September 25, 2017 / 5:58 pm

    Make yourself a bodice sloper! It will help you judge the fit before you cut, and then you can make your own shirt dress pattern. Once you fit the bodice, the rest is a piece of cake πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      September 25, 2017 / 6:14 pm

      Hi, is a bodice sloper the same as a bodice block? Sorry if obvious question – am definitely going to spend some quality time learning how to get a bodice that fits my shape so any pointers are much appreciated πŸ™‚

      • September 25, 2017 / 8:56 pm

        I believe so! There’s so much jargon in sewing πŸ™‚ What I’m talking about is a front and back bodice pattern that only goes to your natural waist and has front waist darts and back darts. I made mine from a couple of tutorials I found online (the one I used most was from the Madalynne blog). It does take time and then you have to test it out, of course. But once you get that fit right, everything else is just details! Mine took a couple of tries to get right, but it was so worth it…I used it this summer to draft and make a simple shirt dress!

        • Sarah
          September 26, 2017 / 8:06 am

          Ah, ok fabulous thank you! I will check out Madalynne’s blog, I think it will definitely be worthwhile to make my own. Then I can compare it to sewing patterns before I cut so I can see how the fit will be and make any adjustments *before* I cut into the fabric! Sounds such an obviously genius idea now that I say it out loud πŸ™‚ Right – I’m officially adding it to my to-do list. Thanks for the inspiration!

          • September 26, 2017 / 5:08 pm

            Chipping in at the tail end of this conversation, the best ever book for making your own bodice block(sloper is US term I think) if you can get hold of it is ‘Metric Pattern Cutting’ by Winifred Aldrich. You can probably guess from her name that she’s no spring chicken (and as the edition I have, from when I did my City and Guilds in Fashion, was printed in 1987 – neither am I!) but the book is straightforward and simple to understand. I’ve looked at loads of other more modern pattern cutting books, but I wouldn’t swap mine for any of them. and
            I’ve just seen the same one as mine on Amazon for Β£12.99 (Red hardback cover)
            Hope that helps, Gill

          • Sarah
            September 26, 2017 / 9:16 pm

            Hi Gill, thank you very much that’s really helpful! Ah so slopers and blocks are the same thing πŸ™‚ I really do need to get one sorted so will get a copy of the book as Β£12.99 isn’t bad at all, and the reviews on Amazon are all positive! I notice that there’s also one for menswear so maybe this would be good to help with making my husband clothes as well!
            Thanks so much for your recommendation! Sarah πŸ™‚

  7. corrineappleby
    September 26, 2017 / 10:12 pm

    Great dress in gorgeous fabric! I’ve made this dress twice now. I had to do an FBA and this created a bust dart but made the dress so much more comfortable to wear. I never wear shirts buttoned up to the neck (in fact my first dress doesn’t even have the top button) so I can’t comment on that adjustment but I’m pretty sure it’ll strangle me! My first dress has the long sleeves and I don’t remember there being a problem with moving my arms. I’ve not worn it in a while – I can’t remember! My second dress has the short sleeves and a different skirt (Lilou skirt) that was very easy to substitute. Definitely do the FBA – it’s really not that scary!

    • Sarah
      September 27, 2017 / 8:11 am

      Hi Corrine! It’s a cute little dress, isn’t it πŸ™‚ This is my second one, both sleeveless. Pretty sure I do need to delve in to the world of FBA’s, I’ve bough the book that Gill recommended in the comment below so hopefully that will be the start of my journey! I always button shirts right up to the top, maybe that’s why I had trouble with the sleeves as there wasn’t enough slack for me to move my arms… but I remember they were REALLY tight around my shoulder so not sure unbuttoning would have helped! Perhaps I just have really large shoulders… not sure. I haven’t heard of the Lilou skirt, so am definitely going to have a look at this now πŸ™‚

  8. October 2, 2017 / 7:34 am

    I’m always looking forward to see which fabric you’ve used to make an garment. This is again such a great choice. It looks amazing. I’ve done some FBA’s for both my daughters and it’s amazing to see what it does to fit. I always make a toile to see if pattern and FBA work together. I’ve a few FBA’s and sometimes another one works better.

    • Sarah
      October 2, 2017 / 8:18 am

      I wish I had more of this fabric, I love it! Hmm, there’s more than one way to do an FBA? I better do some proper research on this then… do you recommend a particular method over the others?

  9. Naia
    December 3, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    Hi there. I was wondering how this fabric is doing. I purchased some when it first came out and made a skirt and had enough left for a western shirt. I rarely wear both items because they wrinkle so badly; worse than anything I own. I have purchased a few cuts of cotton and steel rayon but have stayed away from the lawn ever since.

    • Sarah
      December 5, 2017 / 8:28 am

      Hi! Yeah… this fabric is pretty wrinkly. Even for these pictures, I ironed the dress beforehand and there were some creases that would NOT come out – even with a really hot steam iron. I just don’t know why though? The Liberty Tana lawn is nowhere near as bad as this πŸ™ It’s such a cool print that I just had to buy the fabric, but yes it is very annoying that it creases so easily…

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